Language and Livestock Handling

As we redesign and rebuild our cattle yards we have been thinking about how the language we use affects our attitudes and therefore our actions. We have always had a problem in the area where the cattle are guided into the “race,” the long narrow lane where they travel in single file towards the head bail or ramp and where all the handling happens.

Our previous design had this area as a “forcing yard,” funnel shaped so as to “force” the cattle into the single file race. The problem is that the cattle get funneled into the narrow entrance and end up trying to go in two or three at a time, which causes a block, they turn around and refuse to go in. The fact that we call it a forcing yard, reflects and dictates our approach. By trying to force the cattle into the race, we assume they don’t want to be there and we will have to exert our will upon them, which creates a stressful situation for them and us, right from the outset.

We’ve changed the shape of this yard so it is basically a rectangular pen with the entrance to the race in one corner. The cattle see the entrance and can enter of their own free will, without feeling they are being funneled in. The design is similar to the “bud box’ design which there are many descriptions of on the internet if anyone is interested.

What we’ve noticed, is that if the cattle don’t feel under pressure, their natural curiosity guides them into the race, whereas in our old design, they kept away from the narrow end of the pen, which made them feel they were cornering themselves.

We’re still looking for a good name for this pen, which reflects (and therefore dictates)  what we want to happen. When we had a forcing yard, we tried to force the cattle through it, now we want them to decide for themselves to go where we want them.

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